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OSC’s Revised Hatch Act Guidelines Now Includes New Enforcement Measures for White House Staff



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The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has recently implemented revised guidelines regarding the enforcement of the Hatch Act, a law that regulates political activities among federal employees. In a notable change, OSC will now subject senior White House staff to the same standards as all other federal employees, moving away from previous deference to the president. This decision marks a significant shift in how violations by non-Senate-confirmed White House officials will be handled within the OSC’s purview.

The Hatch Act of 1939 imposes restrictions on federal employees’ political engagement while on duty or acting in an official capacity. Notably, OSC will now direct White House staff members found in violation of the act to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) for adjudication, aligning them with other career federal employees. This adjustment is aimed at ensuring uniform enforcement and accountability.

OSC’s Special Counsel Hampton Dellinger emphasized the need for equal treatment of all government employees regarding Hatch Act enforcement, balancing rigorous oversight with respect for employee speech rights. The disparity in consequences faced by federal employees versus White House officials prompted this revision to establish a more equitable enforcement framework.

Previously, White House personnel were exempt from full Hatch Act enforcement due to flaws in the MSPB’s quorum during the Trump administration. The recent reinstatement of the quorum now allows OSC to utilize MSPB as the primary adjudicator for Hatch Act violations by non-Senate-confirmed White House officials.

Jim Eisenmann, a partner at Alden Law Group and former MSPB executive director, noted the timing of the changes ahead of the upcoming election cycle. The OSC’s updated guidelines also extend to former federal employees, enabling OSC to pursue charges for Hatch Act violations committed during their government service.

OSC has also revised rules on displaying political candidate signs at federal workplaces, instituting a year-round prohibition to align with the ban on party-related items. The shift aims to streamline compliance and address evolving trends linking presidential candidates with specific parties. OSC will provide additional guidance to federal employees to clarify the updated regulations.

Rachel Adams

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